National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Opioids

For over 150 years, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have advised U.S. policy in these fields, employing over 300 Nobel Laureates and leading the world through open access to their research.
NASEM released Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use, to analyze the state of the opioid epidemic, help the public grasp the scope of the crisis, and outline recommendations to doctors, researchers, and state and local governments.



Design & Dev


We see the dark side of American exceptionalism in our current opioid crisis: the United States is an international outlier with extremely high rates of opioid dependence, and drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death domestically. Tackling the root cause of opioid dependence requires an understanding of what is still unknown and the knowledge of how to capitalize on research that already exists. In short, the crisis required the wisdom of NASEM.

The challenge, from a digital storytelling perspective, was turning a 500 page report into an easily shareable summary of the NASEM’s recommendations and conclusions, while remaining intuitive and accessible for public policy leaders, health care professionals, and journalists.


The Reports

Our work began by sorting through the NASEM’s report to identify key takeaways. The report’s major trends focused on the dramatic increase in opioid-related drug overdoses over the past two decades and the increasingly blurred line between abuse of legal prescription drugs and abuse of illicit drugs, like heroin.

In addressing the opioid epidemic, balancing the legitimate pain management needs of patients against an ever-growing wave of addiction remains a challenge for health care providers and government at all levels. It follows, therefore, that any effective solution will require a united effort from all stakeholders, including pain researchers, pharmaceutical companies, health care providers, and both state and federal policy makers. The NASEM’s report offers a summary of the current research and provides specific recommendations for each of these groups.

Expandable sections provide more details on each trend


The LGND digital story featured an interactive card-stack design which organized the massive report into smaller, digestible subsets that focused on specific facets of the report. In particular, the design allows easy social media sharing of individual recommendations and trends relevant to a particular audiences.

See it in action

Interactive card view on mobile & desktop